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There is a “new normal” to serving older adults amid the COVID-19 crisis

Here at Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM), our commitment to supporting seniors and their caregivers has remained our top priority.

Coronavirus and social distancing guidelines have certainly changed the way we go about everyday life. However, here at Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM), our commitment to supporting seniors and their caregivers has remained our top priority. We work to connect seniors in our nine-county region to the resources they require to stay independent. We want to be sure that all older adults are looked after and cared for during this uncertain time. With coronavirus, we have had to think outside of the box and get a little creative on how to continue to serve older adults while prioritizing their health and safety.

What does this look like? Here is a little bit about what we’ve been doing at AAAWM…

THE SOURCE FOR SENIORS

Our Information and Assistance Department has remained an essential senior resource for the region. Our staff has been hard at work answering questions and connecting older adults and caregivers to resources throughout the nine counties. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, common service referrals have been regarding home-delivered meals/food accessibility, wellness checks, and the delivery of essential items, along with continued requests for in-home care and services. As Stephanie Hecksel, Access Manager, explained, “The pandemic certainly affected seniors and their families in more ways than one. In addition to the “traditional” calls and requests we had already been receiving, we also had to understand what the current and sometimes urgent needs of our community were and provide the appropriate resources in a quick manner. Various community resources also adjusted to these needs and worked hard to make different resources available. The AAAWM Information and Assistance department then continued to be an essential part of getting individuals connected to resources."

You can stay updated on resources at www.aaawm.org, or visit our Facebook page. If you have questions on further support that is available or would like to be set up with services, call (616) 456-5664 or (888) 456-5664.

GOING VIRTUAL

Our Family Caregiver University (FCU) provides practical education and support to caregivers in West Michigan, one class at a time. With the current coronavirus crisis, we realize this support is now more important than ever. As Sarah Sobel, Contract Administration and facilitator of our Family Caregiver University remarked, “it was important to our clients and important to our caregivers to know that they weren’t alone.” Therefore, our class offerings have gone virtual! Family caregivers have been able to easily take part in the recent online classes from afar while fostering a sense of community with other participants and learning from experts on a variety of caregiving topics from how to support family caregivers during coronavirus to tips for staying socially connected from afar.

Sarah explained, “Going virtual in some respects has been incredibly positive. Caregivers that might not have been able to attend before due to lack of respite options, now have an opportunity to continue with some programming. We are reaching beyond the usual area – even including caregivers from our most up north counties. We hope to continue with some sort of virtual programming for caregivers even when the stay-at-home order has been lifted due to the convenience for caregivers.” You can find upcoming virtual FCU classes at www.caregiverresource.net.

Additionally, our Healthy Aging programs have gotten in on the virtual fun as well, participants have joined online video workout classes several days a week to help them keep moving from home! You can visit www.aaawm.org/ha to learn more.

STRONG PARTNERSHIPS & COVID-19 SUPPORT

We have an outstanding network of Older Americans Act (OAA) and Kent County Senior Millage (KCSM) Partners who provide vital services to seniors. With the current COVID-19 crisis, these services are more important than ever to the seniors that rely on them. Our Older American’s Act and Kent County Senior Millage Partners have stepped up to the challenge of continuing to serve seniors at this time. COVID-19 support services have included home-delivered meals, virtual support groups, check-in phone calls, and vital in-home care. Through wellness checks via phone, partners can determine client needs and deliver essential items to those who are isolated due to coronavirus. Not only does this aid those who may be home-bound, ensuring their health and safety, but it can also relieve some of the burden from the caregiver as well. You can get a further overview of how some of our partners have risen to the challenge here.

If you or your loved one is looking for support at this time, you can call our Information and Assistance department to get started at (616) 456-5664

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